RED TAPE CUT: Colac Otway pledges 10-day turnaround for minor permits

Building-siteCOLAC OTWAY Shire Council has pledged to cut the time it takes to approve planning applications and slash red tape.

An independent consultant has reviewed community concerns about the council’s planning process, and the council has promised to follow the review’s recommendations.

The council will employ a “fast-track planner” who will aim to process smaller applications for “Mum and Dad” projects including building front fences, building sheds or repainting heritage buildings.

The fast-track planner should approve applications within 10 days and free-up senior planning officers allowing them to focus on larger applications.

The council will set new targets to promote better communication from planning officers with applicants; ensuring officers keep applicants informed during the planning process.

Chief executive officer Sue Wilkinson said the plan featured 28 recommendations which the planning team had already started implementing.

Ms Wilkinson said the council would seek endorsement for the report at Wednesday’s monthly council meeting.

“All 28 of the recommendations in our road map will be implemented during the next 12 months and we will report back to our community regularly on how our planning team is performing,” she said.

“We know that amidst rate capping, declining government grants and cost shifting, a business-as-usual approach will not be enough for us to maintain our service levels to the community.

“A comprehensive staged review of all council services is occurring to ensure we’re in a strong position to address the new challenges faced by the local government sector.”

Average planning processing times dropped 33 days from 76 days to 43 days between May 2014 and May 2015, but the council believed processing times could drop further by enforcing a 10-business-days response time for internal referrals including matters for drainage, traffic management, vegetation or public open space.

A review of the council’s planning team’s checklists for planning applications should also help cut back application timelines.

Ms Wilkinson said the planning team would update and improve its checklists, fact sheets and web materials to help applicants understand the process.

She said the council often received applications with missing information and she hoped the improved checklist would eliminate that.

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